Background: Little is known about the association between physical activity (PA) and cognitive trajectories in older adults.
Objective: To examine the association between PA and change in memory, language, attention, visuospatial skills, and global cognition, and a potential impact of sex or Apolipoprotein E (APOE) epsilon 4 status.
Methods: Longitudinal study derived from the population-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, including 2,060 cognitively unimpaired males and females aged >= 70 years. Engagement in midlife (ages 50-65) and late-life (last year) PA was assessed using a questionnaire. Neuropsychological testing was done every 15 months (mean follow-up 5.8 years). We ran linear mixed-effect models to examine whether mid- or late-life PA at three intensities (mild, moderate, vigorous) was associated with cognitive z-scores.
Results: Light intensity midlife PA was associated with less decline in memory function compared to the no-PA reference group (time x light PA; estimate [standard error] 0.047 [0.016], p = 0.004). Vigorous late-life PA was associated with less decline in language (0.033 [0.015], p = 0.030), attention (0.032 [0.017], p = 0.050), and global cognition (0.039 [0.016], p = 0.012). ... mehrFemales who were physically inactive in midlife experienced more pronounced cognitive decline than females physically active in midlife and males regardless of PA (p-values for time interaction terms with midlife PA levels and sex were all p < 0.05 for global cognition). APOE epsilon 4 carriership did not moderate the association between PA and cognition.
Conclusion: Engaging in PA, particularly of vigorous intensity in late-life, was associated with less pronounced decline in global and domain-specific cognition. This association may differ by sex.